Until We Meet Again

In front of the boot near our booth in front of the Cheyenne Depot.
Dad demonstrating trick ropes in front of our booth in Cheyenne.

We are saddened to report the death of our #1 supporter and all-around hand, our dad J.O. Cravens of Fittstown, Oklahoma.

He has supported our business since we started in 1986 with six Christmas card designs and one barnwood sign.

Since our mom’s death in 2011, dad spent much of his time inspecting and pricing ornaments and decorations.

He’s also been a big part of our booths at the National Finals Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the State Fair of Oklahoma and the International Finals Rodeo.

He lived a full life in his 87 years. If you’d like to learn more about him, here is his obituary.

J.O. Cravens

J.O. (John) Cravens of Fittstown, Oklahoma died Thursday, September 13, 2018, in Sulphur at age 87, six months and eight days. He was born March 5, 1931, to Lawrence and Mary Inez (Brady) Cravens in Haskell, Oklahoma.

He became a resident of Ada, Oklahoma after he married Mary L. Ward on December 29, 1956, in Coalgate, Oklahoma, just before heading to the rodeo in El Paso, Texas.

How he made his living for more than 40 years. He never broke any bones but ribs and his collarbone while riding bareback horses and bulls.

At age 13 he began competing against adults in rodeos since there was no youth division in the 1940s. He rode bareback broncs and bulls for 40 years and was runner-up to his good friend and traveling partner Ben Jordan for 11 world championships in the International Rodeo Association. In 1971,  J.O. qualified for the inaugural International Finals Rodeo in bull riding while Mary qualified in barrel racing. He was a rodeo judge, serving as an official at professional and youth rodeos for decades. In the late 1960s, he was the instructor for the rodeo industry’s first judges’ clinic and continued to teach rodeo officials for many years.

Giving his trademark “skank eye” to the camera while hanging out in an empty box as we worked through a shipment outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.

J.O. and Mary were founding members of the International Rodeo Association (later International Professional Rodeo Association) in the early 1960s and helped write rules and bylaws that are still in effect today. He served multiple terms as bull riding director,  first, and second vice-president of the IRA in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, he served as president and managing director of the IPRA, supervising major changes including moving the association’s headquarters to Oklahoma City, relocating the International Finals Rodeo from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and establishing the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee.

An “oops” baby, J.O. had one sister Sybil who was 15 years older than he. He graduated from Boynton High School in 1949 where he played basketball. He was a lifelong basketball fan at all levels from high school to college to the WNBA and the NBA. Some of his best friends were basketball coaches.

After lasting just two weeks at Oklahoma A & M in the fall of 1949 when he quit to rodeo full time, J.O. returned to college at age 36 and earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma in 1972. He began teaching at Sulphur High School in the fall of 1972 and continued to teach “wunnerful, wunnerful” U.S. History there for 14 years before retiring to manage the rodeo association. He and Mary lived in Sulphur until 1990 when they moved back to Pontotoc County near Fittstown.

J.O. in front of “Atomic Annie”, one of the nuclear missiles he guarded as an MP in Germany when the cold war was “hot.” When he visited Ft. Sill in March, he had not seen one of these since the 1950s.

He was proud of his military service although he could not talk about the details for decades. After two deferments because of rodeo-related injuries, J.O. started basic training at Fort Sill in 1951. Immediately after finishing basic training, he was selected for M.P. training. His unit, Company B of the Ninth Ordinance Battalion, guarded nuclear missiles in Germany when the cold war was hot. As tensions mounted, all leaves were canceled, and his company guarded the missiles that were mounted on semi-trailers in four-hour shifts in the Black Forest and in a small village. In March J.O. visited Fort Sill to see one of the few remaining “Atomic Annie” guns at the artillery museum, the first time he had seen one since he guarded them more than 60 years ago.

Teaching “wunnerful, wunnerful” U.S. History at Sulphur High School.

He was the antithesis of the lazy rodeo cowboy stereotype. J.O. always walked fast and arrived early. Ben Jordan said no matter how early he tried to arrive, J.O. was always there waiting on him. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he worked for his nephew pouring concrete and working circles around men decades younger than he.

After Mary died in 2011, J.O. spent much of his time helping his daughters Johna and Dayna with their western Christmas gift business. If you shopped their booth in Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo, at Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming, or at the International Finals Rodeo, you’d often have the chance to swap stories.

He was quick with a joke, had a wry sense of humor, could out-cuss a sailor, and valued honesty and hard work above all. He won countless trophy buckles during his rodeo career and gave many away to friends and family, especially his many nephews.

J.O. is survived by two daughters, Johna Cravens and Dayna Cravens of Fittstown; brother-in-law Vernon Ward of the home; great-niece and honorary granddaughter Mandy Smith and her daughter Laurel of Bristow; seven sisters-in-law; five brothers-in-law; many nieces and nephews and countless members of the rodeo family.

He was preceded in death by his wife Mary, parents, sister Sybil (Cravens) Harris, seven brothers-in-law and two sisters-in-law.

A celebration of life is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, September 19, at the Lance Hartsfield Fair and Expo Center in Coalgate with interment to follow at Ward Cemetery near Cairo. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the J.O. Cravens Memorial IFYR Scholarship, c/o IPRA, P.O. Box 83377, Oklahoma City, OK 73148.




Have fun or go home!

“Have fusilly memphisn or go home” is our motto! We offer an eclectic selection of items for sale and they all have one thing in common – they must make us smile.

At Mistletoe Merchants of Memphis this past weekend, we lived our motto with a wide selection of Christmas items, more than 100 sq ft of fall, Halloween and Day of the Dead items and a full selection of our favorite collegiate merchandise.fun memphis

We were lucky to work with some of our favorite girls – Taylor Belles, Lacey Hammack and Sarah Allen (Sorry, Sarah. Didn’t get a photo with you.) – and tried out the Selfie Sticks we sell.

Fun at the Minnesota State Fair

20150830_105639[1]We exhibited for the first time at the Minnesota State Fair August 27 through Labor Day. What a wonderful experience!

Our location in Werner Coliseum put us right where much of the horse show, cattle show and bull riding action took place.

Although we were very busy during the 12 days of the show, we did get to sneak away from the booth and see some of the horse show events including the draft horse hitches and the unique and exciting trailer race.

We also met many fun and interesting folks including the woman who moved into the Guinness Book of World Records for her collection of cow items that tops 10,000!

The Minnesota State Fairgrounds is beautiful with wide boulevards and streets, lots of tall trees and plenty of benches. A full fireworks display followed the grandstand show each night.

There were lots of delicious and interesting food choices. We especially enjoyed the wild rice burgers, pickle dogs and cinnamon rolls.

If you get a chance, add the Great Minnesota Get-Together to your list of places to go. It’s held for 12 days ending on Labor Day each year.

CowboySanta gets it’s fair on!

This September we exhibited at the Oklahoma State Fair for the first time. The event is a perennial favorite, but we previously had not been able to work it into our schedule.

We really enjoyed being part of the Oklahoma Expo building with other proud Oklahoma-based companies and were honored to receive the award for best-dressed booth in that building.

We received a nice plaque and a first-place ribbon. Many who visited our booth during the fair asked if we would be back at the State Fairgrounds for An Affair of the Heart. We’ll be there October 24-26 in the Centennial Building.

state fair booth2 state fair booth1 state-fair-ribbon

Now Open Daily at Mrs. B’s on Main

We’re excited to announce that some of our unique products are on display and ready for purchase in person at Mrs. B’s on Main in downtown Ada, Okla.

Mrs. B’s is a great tearoom and cafe, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. They serve breakfast and offer lunch until 3 p.m., plus they offer fabulous desserts. They also produce parties for birthdays, anniversaries, girls’ night out, graduations and more.

Dayna and I have personal connection to the building where Mrs. B’s is located. The building was the home of Evan’s Hardware, and later Evan’s Gift & Gourmet. We were in and out of that building a lot as children with our lifelong friends Marianne and Harry Evans, who still own the building.

Our spaces are just inside the left front window  and further back in the building facing the tearoom. You’ll find some of our Christmas and collegiate items facing the tearoom. The front space shows spring and gift items, sleepshirts and comical boxers. You can see photos of many of our items on our facebook page.Front window at Mrs.B's on Main

Mistletoe Merchants of Memphis

Halloween booth in Memphis
Halloween booth in Memphis
Our Halloween and Harvest booth in Memphis.

We had a great time at Mistletoe Merchants in Memphis this past weekend. Kristi Rowan and all the folks at The Market Shows by Midsouth Media Group do a great job of putting together a first-class show.

This show always kicks off our busy holiday season and we had a great one thanks to our temporary elves – Lacey, Sarah and Meghan. The only downer was that Meghan came down with some kind of bug and had to leave early since she was sick. We’re hoping she’s feeling much better now.

Our booth area in Memphis is unusual. We have a 10′ x 20′ booth at the end of an aisle and a 10′ x 10′ booth across the aisle from the bigger booth. We also have an area at the end of the aisle against the wall where we exhibit more merchandise. This year our college merchandise was at the end of the aisle. The Halloween and harvest filled the 10′ booth and we filled the bigger booth with our Christmas and western items.

Christmas booth in Memphis
Our Christmas and western booth in Memphis.

Thanks to all our customers in the Memphis area.  Folks in that neck of the woods have the opportunity to attend another great Holiday Market by Mistletoe Merchants at the Agricenter in Memphis October 25-27, although we won’t be there. We’ll be in Oklahoma City that weekend for An Affair of the Heart!

College booth in Memphis
Our collegiate area in Memphis.

We’re back on track!

After a l-e-n-g-t-h-y delay, we (mainly Johna) have finally updated our website and launched this new blog.

Even though CowboySanta.com has been around since the late 1990s, we went through a major reorganization and several life changes in the past few years and, frankly, did not focus on our website. We would add a few new items and that was about it. 

After we got our butts in gear and added a Facebook page earlier this summer, we finally got serious about revamping the website.

We hadn’t revamped our site in so long that it was almost like starting from scratch. (Johna knew just enough to realize how much she needed to learn and relearn.) But we’ve made a good start, just in time for the holiday season!

Here’s a photo of the main elves of CowboySanta.com – our dad J.O. Cravens (left), Johna Cravens and Dayna Cravens (kneeling) – taken last summer near our booth at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Free Pancakes at the Daddy of ‘Em All

Our annual trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for Cheyenne Frontier Days is always fun. Our booth outside the historic Union Pacific Railroad Depot faces Depot Plaza and puts us in front of some 30,000 folks who attend the free pancake breakfasts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings during Frontier Days. We’re also just across the Plaza from the route of the huge downtown parades, held on the first and last Saturdays and on Tuesday and Thursdays.